Monday, January 21, 2019
Foodies Legends


About 20 years after the first Cluetrain Manifesto, we have moved from a market that is conversation to a market of conversations. The web reputation, compromised by fake news, became a billionaire affair. Here's who fights the system

19 years ago, the first years of the internet generated an enthusiasm so big that it has been translated in the Cluetrain Manifesto. “Markets are conversations”, says the first paragraph of those 95 theses. The belief that internet is “Us” has been the incentive to simplify a manifesto that was mainly addressed to firms. “Us”, “All of us”. But we are all fishes in a funnel, the funnel that every firm creates for conversions, that basically means to sell.

From conversations to conversions. And from a market that is conversation, to a market of conversations. The overturning was yet inherent to the first thesis of the Cluetrain of 1999, and in 2015 the same group ran for cover with more than 121 theses, too naif to be taken seriously (at least until today). Even because, conversations rebuilt reputation, the web reputation, and web reputation sells marvelously. Reliability? Just a little.

Reviews and customers opinions are bought apiece, and the market gets fat to the sound of millions of dollars. It is called astroturfing, and it aims to produce fake reviews to increase the attractiveness, hence the sale of products, whether they are hotel accommodations, dinners or gardening books. The most touched are the e-commerce giants, like the Japanese Rakuten, the American Amazon or Tripadvisor, food and travel platform. Some small groups of “optimization” and some agencies usually ask for 10€ or so for a positive or negative review, to strike them. A case of 2015 is emblematic: Amazon sued 1114 persons who were writing fake reviews for a 5$ up commission through Fiverr, platform of freelance services.

Tripadvisor is another good example. The platform has been repeatedly implied in cases of inexistent restaurants, brought up to the top of rankings thanks to fake reviews. With a study carried out on 60 e-commerce enterprises and review platforms, the French “General Directorate for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control” showed that the 35% of the reviews are manipulative or instrumental, hence fake. A huge number, emphasized if we consider that fake reviews deter customers purchases of 74%, while the positive have an impact of 41% on consumers (statistics coming from a study carried out by Rakuten-PriceMinister in collaboration with La Poste).

However, the weapons to fight this market are evolving. Those naive, who are on the same wavelength than the Cluetrain, they want to remind those Silicon Valley Titans the values of the web, source of inspiration. They are ReviewMeta, Review Skeptic, and Fakespot, American softwares intended to find fake reviews mainly on Amazon, Yelp, Tripadvisor for hospitality.

No shortage of interesting models in Italy with Reviewland and FOODIESTRIP. Both experiences are born with the help of Universities and Research Centers (the Normale and the CNR for Reviewland, the Camerino University for FOODIESTRIP). All of these experiences are just starting out, and are all based on Machine Learning, a high technology language that allows a machine to learn from acquired data and experience. Among these, just FOODIESTRIP is also an app and a social, directly dedicated to the creation of real reviews that are based on questionnaires able to self-learn through the answers of the users. «There has never been a tool that has a more general purpose since the invention of language», says the Cluetrain Manifesto about the web. True, but the internet, as well as language or politics, needs credibility to be at the service of that “Us”.


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Pierluigi Capriotti
My name is Pierluigi Capriotti to be exact. Despite a degree in Architecture I'm a journalist. I write following temporary monomania and others that are chronic such reading, soccer, travels and food. When I write I use many asides – because I have the impression there is always something more to say. Because in those asides I talk about my passions. So that everybody will notice them but with nonchalance. I've never had a high regard for wisdom. And, thanks God, this helped me to leave for the foodiestrip journey with a spiritual-creative mathematician, an IT engineer who plays the Star Wars soundtrack with the coffee stirrers and a businessnerd. One way ticket. No return.